San Francisco with Kids: Carousels and Kids’ Museums

This is a guest post from Debbie Abrams Kaplan, the writer behind the San Francisco family blog Frisco Kids, exploring family-friendly events, kid-friendly activities, and day trips in the Bay Area. She also writes about family travel for Family Fun magazine, the San Jose Mercury News, AAA Traveler, the Miami Herald and others. See her writing at

I love doing “theme” traveling with my family. That means picking a category and exploring several types in a given area, teaching my kids some critical thinking skills (one favorite: “how was this ice cream shop different from the last one?”).

Yerba Buena Center Carousel. Photo Credit TheNickster on Flickr

Here are two themes to explore on your San Francisco trip with kids:


The Yerba Buena Center (4th and Howard) carousel outside Zeum (a great children’s museum, by the way) has a fun history the kids won’t likely care about. So while you and the little ones are going up and down on carved horses, you can tell them that this carousel was built in 1906, and moved around a bit. It was in Long Beach, Seattle and San Francisco’s Playland-at-the-Beach (which closed in 1972).

Pier 39 Carousel the pier has a lot of great family-friendly attractions, but you don’t want to miss the Italian carousel in the middle. It’s hand-painted with images of San Francisco landmarks, like Chinatown, Coit Towerand the Golden Gate Bridge. This carousel is apparently the only on in the country with pictures representing its home city. Hop aboard a sea dragon or dolphin!

Golden Gate Park Carousel located in the Koret Children’s Quarter (Bowling Green Drive between JFK Blvd and MLK Jr. Drive), a carousel has been here since 1888, when the playground first opened. This is the park’s third carousel, originally steam-powered, and it entertained visitors to the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island.

Burrowing owl at Coyote Pointe Museum. Photo Credit donjd2 on Flickr

Small Bay Area Kids’ Museums

It’s easy to pass by Palo Alto Junior Museum museum, next to a Palo Alto school and park. The small size makes it the perfect toddler outing. The indoor hall consists of a U-shaped room, usually with one hands-on theme or exhibit. Outside, full enclosed, is a small zoo with owls, bats, birds, fish and more. When you’re done with the museum head to the playground outside.

Coyote Point Museum – the beautiful location – next to the San Francisco Bay and in the middle of a county park is one lure to this kids’ museum. Outside you’ll find a small zoo, with rattlesnakes, a fox, bobcat, otters and more. Inside, learn about the Bay Area ecosystem – including the live bee hive. Don’t miss the keeper talks, where you can learn more about the animals.

The Randall Museum is high up on a San Francisco hilltop is a museum with a fabulous view. Run by the city of San Francisco, this hands-on (and free) museum has exhibits ranging from local animals, ecology and building Legos to withstand an earthquake. It’s a manageable size with plenty to keep the kids busy.

Relevant Links:

Ciao Bambino recommended San Francisco family hotels

Favorite San Francisco attractions with kids

Favorite San Francisco Spring activities with kids

San Francisco Bay Area summer camps

Visiting Mount Diablo with kids

San Francisco with kids – Ciao Bambino guest post on Two Kids and a Map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Let Ciao Bambino! Plan Your Dream Trip with Kids

Sign In

Want to save all the great intel and tips you are finding on Ciao Bambino? My Trip Planner allows you to bookmark articles, family-friendly hotel reviews, and family vacation packages. Simply click the heart icon on anything you want to save. Site registration is required to get started. Happy planning!

Create an Account

Please fillout the form below to create your free My Trip Planner account.